Many Wilmington residents want to rock and roll all night (and party every day), yet doing so could be costly to their hearing. Noise levels during concerts often exceed safe listening thresholds, posing a risk to those who enjoy the energy and excitement of live music.
Dangerously High Decibels
Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Woodstock this past summer, news reports surfaced that showed a majority of people in “the Woodstock Generation” (those aged 65 to 80) have paid the price for enjoying music festivals and concerts during their younger years and now suffer from hearing loss. Indeed, about one-third of people in Wilmington will experience some degree of hearing impairment by the age of 65; at 75, that number is closer to one in two.
For many, noise is the culprit. 85 decibels (dB) is considered the safe listening threshold; noises at and above this volume level can cause permanent hearing damage. The louder the sound, the quicker damage can occur. You can safely listen to noises at 85 dB for about eight hours, but at 100 dB, damage can occur in as little as 15 minutes.
Not all the blame lies in music; noisy occupations, disease and trauma can all lead to a decline in hearing as we age. Even the normal, everyday sounds of daily life—traffic, barking dogs, lawn mowers, power tools—eventually take their toll.
The risks are more immediate when it comes to rock ‘n roll concerts, where noise levels range from 95 to 115 dB (or even higher). Your risk of hearing loss or tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, is higher any time you attend a show.
Is This Noise Induced Hearing Loss Avoidable?
This doesn’t mean you have to bow out of Bob Seger’s farewell tour or skip the next Stones set. By taking a few precautions, you can still enjoy concerts. First and foremost, invest in a pair of earplugs. A 2016 study of 51 concertgoers, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, found that 8 percent of those who wore earplugs with a noise reduction rate of 18 dB experienced hearing loss. By contrast, 42 percent of individuals who did not wear earplugs ended up with hearing loss. While regular foam earplugs found in most drugstores offer good protection, they can make the music sound muffled. Instead, look for a pair of musician earplugs, which decease sound evenly across the entire hearing spectrum, resulting in music that sounds more true-to-life. Contact Wilmington Audiology Services today to create a custom pair of ear plugs made just for your ears.
Another option is to choose seats closer to the back of the auditorium. It’s tempting to get as close to the stage as possible—maybe you’ll even get lucky and have Bruce Springsteen sweat on you!—but doing so puts you in closer proximity to the speakers and instruments. ASHA recommends maintaining a distance of at least 500 feet from speakers and other sound sources. Better yet, look for an outdoor venue, where sound isn’t trapped in a confined space. Finally, take a couple of breaks during the show. Giving your ears a brief respite, even just for a minute or two, can help prevent hearing damage.
Rock ‘n roll shows aren’t the only ones that can be hazardous to your hearing. Even a symphony has the potential to cause damage; the noise from dozens of violins, cellos and tubas can easily exceed safety thresholds. You can download a decibel meter app for your smartphone (many are available for free or, at most, a few dollars) and check the sound level mid-performance in order to gauge your safe exposure time.
For more information on preventing long-term hearing loss from noise exposure, reach out to a Wilmington hearing specialist.